Saturday, June 28, 2008

Christ the Rock

When I was looking for a place to hold this year’s version of “True Men in the Mountains” someone suggested Joshua Tree. So I drove out there and when I saw the rocks at Indian Cove campground, I thought that might be a good place to camp and maybe do some rock climbing. Which led me to invite Craig DeMartino to come out and lead that part of it.

Those rocks looked so inviting. They looked easy enough to climb. Lot’s of places to find handholds and footholds. And with a climbing leader like Craig, I thought, “Piece of cake.”

But looks can sometimes be deceiving. When you get up close to these rocks, they get bigger and bigger, and more intimidating. When you place your hands on them, they seem to change right before your eyes. What looked easy turned out to be one of the most difficult and scary things I’ve ever attempted.

Craig made it look easy, too. He scampered up those rocks like nothing. At first, I thought, “Hey, he’s only got one leg, this should be easy.”

I have a new and greater and deeper appreciation for Craig DeMartino and anyone who climbs on a regular basis.
After I got back, and I started the finishing touches on this message, I had to stop and just be amazed at how God works. This weekend is the time when we Christians have the opportunity to thank God for the life and work of Saints Peter and Paul. Peter the Rock and Paul who wrote so passionately about Christ – the Cornerstone!

In the Old Testament, God is described as a rock. Last weekend, I got a new appreciate of why. From a distance, you think you can get a grip on God, understand Him, think He’s “not such a big deal.”

But the closer you get to God, the more He changes in your eyes. Not that He changes – He doesn’t. He’s immovable, He’s unchanging. But we change, our position, our outlook, in relation to God. We are also changed by our proximity to God.

The Church, since Christ’s time, has referred to Christ as “The Rock” – long before Dwayne Johnson arrived on the scene. Peter was a follower of Jesus – which was part of the reason that Jesus called him “The Rock.”

Romans 9:31-33, Paul says that those “who pursued a law of righteousness, [have] not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

This “rock” theme permeates both Peter and Paul. It is a good way for us to look at Christ and our relationship with Him.
As a Rock, Christ doesn’t move easily. We can’t really shape him into what we want Him to be. When we try to shape rocks into what we want them to be, we must forever alter what they are and what they can do. With Christ, if we try to make him into what we want we end up with a Christ that really isn’t The Christ of Scripture.
Rather than try to change Christ, it is us that need to be changed.

Last weekend, I was challenged by the rocks and I was ultimately conquered by the rocks. I couldn’t get further than about six feet off the ground for at least two reasons: 1) I lacked the physical strength to carry this body up the side of the rock. 2) I didn’t have very good foot-gear. That motivated me to work on #1 – with more jogging and swimming and better eating habits. #2 will take planning and saving – also good exercise for life.
But in the end, I won’t be able to conquer that rock anyway. Rather, I’ll have a relationship, of sorts, with that rock. It presents different challenges in foot-holds and hand-holds each time I try to climb it. In the end, it is the same rock and it is a different rock each time I try to climb it.
That’s Christ as well. He is the rock that cannot be conquered – rather He conquers – sin, death, and the power of the devil. With Jesus’ death, that which haunts each one of us – death – is destroyed. We no longer have to fear what is to come because Christ has already been there and conquered it!
With Christ’s death and resurrection, our sin has been conquered and we are now free to really live life.
I appreciate that life right now for a lot of people is not the most joyful experience – gas prices rising, housing values dropping, fear of the future escalating, political campaigns decreasing into mud-slinging – no, life is not full of joy and peace at the moment.
But if we want peace and joy in life, there is only one way to look, only one way to go – the Rock of Christ! Immovable, unchanging, forever challenging us to great heights of discovery.
That was the attraction for Peter and Paul – although they may not have known it at the time.
Peter and Paul epitomize most of us. They thought they had all the answers. Peter looked to a full and happy life out on the lake with his fishing business. Paul was content with his life of study and contemplation. Both suffered from pride and arrogance that their ways were best and immovable.
Until both of them came to the rock. Christ freed Peter and Paul from their pride and in doing so, he freed them from their sins and their fears.
Christ does the same thing for us. Christ gives us a future when all around us the future looks dim.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wilderness Experience

The desert can be a hot place. I found out the truth of that statement! I spent nearly 3 days and 3 nights in the California High Desert with six other guys on a weekend camping retreat. During the day it was about 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Complete sunshine, no clouds to provide relief until the last afternoon we were there and then only about a half hour of daylight relief.

But it was a great experience! Being there gave me insight into a “wilderness experience” similar to what Jesus experienced for 40 days, that Elijah experienced on the run from Jezebel, and that the Israelites experienced for 40 years in Sinai.

I learned a lot about myself and my relationship with Christ.
- I can endure that kind of heat for extended periods of time, as long as the water holds out and I drink it.
- I’m thankful for a few minutes in the shade of a rock or a tree.
- The encouragement of a friend goes a long way of making a frustrating experience into an upbeat and enjoyable experience.

During the day, we climbed several rocks with ropes and harnesses, led by our climbing leader Craig.

In the evenings, we explored the leadership of Jesus Christ in the Gospels.

Not a patience man all the time, I found that a peace from Jesus Christ enveloped me throughout the retreat even though I expected the heat and sun to burn off any patience I brought with me.

I learned that simple water can taste like ambrosia after a long, hot hike.

Following leaders like our climbing leader, Craig, examples like Dick Winters (from Band of Brothers) and Jesus Christ as related to us in the Gospels, changed me from a man who thought he pretty much had things figured out into a man who’s horizons have been deeply broadened.

Being in the wilderness helped me see in a more real way the extent of Jesus’ love for me. He experienced this just like I did. He was tempted to give up, to give in and didn’t. He didn’t back down, he kept walking even when he was tired.

My Joshua Tree wilderness experience brought me closer to six guys, it brought me closer to Christ, and it brought me a closer understanding of myself.

©2008 True Men Ministries.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Elections and the True Man

We, the people of the United States, should not cast a vote for a person who will solve our problems.
God has given us the means to solve all our problems in His Son Jesus Christ. Because the number one problem is sin.Once sin is conquered by Jesus Christ on the cross, we are freed to live lives to God's great glory.
And God promises to bless us as we live for Him.Social Security? We don't need it. We have all we need to survive in this world no matter what. And God gives us a little more than we need to help others (which is how He fills their needs, I suspect). Food? God gives daily bread. Peace? Well, there will always be wars. Security? God gives us all the security we need.
So, in reality, Christians don't have to worry about electing anyone president. We will survive no matter who is elected because God is our Shepherd, we shall not want.
If a President of the United States is elected that outlaws Christianity, then it will only drive the Church underground. No problems. We've been there before.
If a President fo the United States is elected that is a strong Christian and leads from a solid, Christian moral base, then that presents its own set of challenges - we'll need to work harder on being humble, not being complacent that the Government will do the work Christ has given us to do.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Life Is Like a Bunch of Rocks

These rocks are a lot like life. At the top is the Great Light of heaven, but it sure seems like an awful lot of work to get there.

But in a little over two weeks, I'm going to be climbing these rocks. The key? I won't be doing it by myself. I'll have an experienced guide leading me on and - probably more importantly - encouraging me on.

The greatest part of that encouragment is that my guide has been there before. He knows what he's doing. He's going on ahead of me. He's going to coach me up. He's going to have me hooked into him by a sturdy rope.

That's life. I'm heading up to heaven. It is going to be a rocky road. But Christ is leading me on. Christ is encouraging me on. He's been this way before. And I'm tied into Him by an unbreakable rope.

Life ain't easy. But it sure is exciting. Yeah, there are times when I wish it were a bit less exciting. Less rocky. Less hard. And there are times when it is. I'm hoping I'll get better at recognizing those times so I can enjoy them.

But I'll take the excitement, too. Because I've found that's a lot of fun, too!